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Moreau v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division

July 26, 2018



          Michael G. Gotsch, Sr. United States Magistrate Judge

         Plaintiff Brian Lee Moreau ("Moreau") filed his complaint in this Court seeking judicial review of the Social Security Commissioner's final decision to deny his applications for Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") under Title II and Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") under Title XVI of the Social Security Act. This Court may enter a ruling in this matter based on the parties' consent pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). For the reasons discussed below, this Court AFFIRMS the Commissioner's final decision.

         I. Procedure

         On October 30, 2013, Moreau filed applications for DIB and SSI, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 423 alleging disability beginning January 27, 2011.[1] After Moreau's claims were initially denied on January 21, 2014, and again on reconsideration on April 8, 2014, Moreau amended his alleged onset date to July 20, 2012. On February 18, 2016, a hearing was held before an administrative law judge ("ALJ"). On March 30, 2016, the ALJ issued his decision denying Moreau's applications for DIB and SSI having found that he was not disabled as defined by the Social Security Act. On March 10, 2017, the Appeals Council denied Moreau's request for review, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner.

         On May 12, 2017, Moreau filed a complaint in this Court seeking judicial review of the Commissioner's decision under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). On September 5, 2017, Moreau filed his opening brief. Thereafter, on November 21, 2017, the Commissioner filed a responsive memorandum asking the Court to affirm the decision denying Moreau's benefits. Moreau filed his reply brief on December 5, 2017.

         II. Relevant Background

         Moreau was 43 years old on the amended alleged onset date. Moreau sought DIB and SSI based on back pain, high blood pressure, depression, anxiety, fatigue, and possible arthritis. Moreau reports completing the ninth grade and did not earn a GED. He worked as an appliance salesman and tire replacement technician but testified that he had to stop working due to pain and his wife's illness.

         At the hearing before the ALJ, Moreau testified that he suffered from back pain, headaches, neck pain, and sharp pain in his buttocks into his right leg. Moreau further testified that his pain only allows him to stand and wash dishes for about five to ten minutes, walk approximately one hundred feet, sit about twenty minutes before having to stand, and lift no more than ten pounds. Furthermore, he testified that his mind races constantly and he has trouble concentrating. Moreau also stated that he does not always take care of his personal care needs because he does not feel like it as a result of his psychological conditions.[2]

         After the hearing, the ALJ issued a written decision reflecting the following findings based on the five-step disability evaluation prescribed in the Social Security Administration's regulations.[3] At step one, the ALJ found that Moreau had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since July 20, 2012, the amended alleged onset date. At step two, the ALJ found that Moreau had the following severe impairments: major depressive disorder; cannabis abuse disorder, sustained full remission; cocaine use, moderate, sustained full remission; morbid obesity; obstructive sleep apnea/COPD; anxiety disorder; GERD; history of fracture of Til vertebra; and lumbar spondylolisthesis. However, at step three, the ALJ found that Moreau's physical and mental impairments did not meet or medically equal a Listing in 20 C.F.R. § 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. Specifically, the ALJ notes the criteria of Listings 1.02 (Disorders of the spine), 3.02 (COPD), 3.10 (Sleep-related breathing disorder), and 9.00 et seq. (Endocrine disorders) were not met. Furthermore, the ALJ notes Moreau's mental impairments, under the criteria of Listings 12.04, 12.06, and 12.09, fail to satisfy "paragraph B" criteria because there was only a mild restriction in activities of daily living and moderate difficulties in social functioning and concentration, persistence, or pace with no episodes of decompensation. Furthermore, the ALJ notes that the evidence fails to satisfy "paragraph C" criteria.

         Before proceeding to step four, the ALJ determined Moreau's residual functional capacity ("RFC"). The ALJ concluded that Moreau had the ability to perform light work with some limitations. The ALJ found Moreau's abilities and limitations as follows:

[Moreau] can never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds, but can occasionally climb ramps and stairs, balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl. He can have no more than occasional exposure to irritants, such as fumes, odors, dusts, gases, and poorly ventilated areas. He can have no exposure to excessive vibration. He can have no use of moving or dangerous machinery or exposure to unprotected heights. He is capable of work that consists of simple, routine, and repetitive tasks, but not at a production rate pace. He is limited to no more than occasional interaction with the public, coworkers, and supervisors.

[DE 8 at 30]. At step four, the ALJ found that the aforementioned limitations prevented Moreau from performing any of his past relevant work. At step five, however, the ALJ considered Moreau's age, education, work experience, and RFC and determined that Moreau was able to perform a significant number of jobs in the national economy, including encapsulator, agricultural produce sorter, and wireworker.

         Based on these findings, the ALJ determined that Moreau had not been under a disability as defined by the Social Security Act from July 20, 2012. Moreau requested that the Appeals Council review the ALJ's decision. On March 10, 2017, the Appeals Council denied review of the ALJ's decision, making it the Commissioner's final decision. See Fast v. Barnhart, 397 F.3d 468, 470 (7th Cir. 2005); 20 C.F.R. § 404.981.

         III. ...

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